How to Clean Up a Leaking Battery
By Chad Upton | Editor
Some causes of leaks are:
- Trying to recharge disposable cells
- Mixing battery types (ex. alkaline with nickel-cadmium)
- Mixing new batteries with old ones
- Damp environments
- Leaving batteries installed during long term storage
These conditions put strain on the batteries in different ways that can cause them to leak. This leaky material is often called “Battery Acid” although in the case of alkaline batteries, it’s actually not acidic at all — it’s basic (the opposite of acidic on the pH scale).
But, it’s still a corrosive material that can cause skin, eye and respiratory irritation. Additionally, if a battery leaks inside your electronics, this crystalized material can corrode the electronics and prevent them from functioning properly.
To clean it up you’ll want the following:
- Eye protection
- Skin/hand protection (gloves)
- Face mask
- Neutralizing acid (lemon juice or vinegar)
- Q-tips, Paper towel and/or disposable rag
The key thing to remember is that you don’t want to come in contact with the potassium hydroxide, so use a Q-tip to wipe the material away from the batteries. If you have trouble cleaning it off of battery contacts in electronics, you may try a drop of neutralizing acid on the end of the Q-tip.
If the battery is an acid battery, such as a car or marine battery, you can use baking soda (an alkaline) to neutralize the acid (ie. don’t use lemon juice or vinegar in this case).
For information about battery disposal, see: How to Dispose of Household Hazardous Waste